Budget Padding: Concerned Lawmakers Must Resign
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- Date:12 Aug, 2016 00:00
The Association for Credible Leadership in Nigeria (ACLN) expresses a strong disappointment in the Nigerian National Assembly over the alleged budget padding scandal. Padding, which is ‘a practice that some people use in business when submitting a budget for approval. It artificially inflates the proposed budget in order to give the project room to expand or to cover unexpected costs’.
The recent revelations have disheartened Nigerians home and abroad and made them to see that the people elected to represent their interests at the National level, are actually looking out for themselves egocentrically. Interestingly, this is not the first but could be the last.
To start with, let’s put some facts and figures right.
A Lagos based lawyer, Wahab Shittu said the controversy still lingers whether in the context of our own circumstances budget padding constitutes a crime?
Section 81(1) of the constitution provides:
“The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.”
The question that arises from the above is the ownership of the budget in terms of preparation? We have no difficulty in saying on the strength of the constitutional provisions above that the preparation of the budget is the responsibility of the Executive. This position is fortified by Section 81(2) of the constitution.
“The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates (other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation by this Constitution) shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein.”
The next question that arises is what is the scope of preparation of the budget? And, what is the scope of the appropriation of the budget? The answers to these would determine whether budget padding constitutes a crime or not. Given the definition of padding and the synonyms of same to include ‘insertion’ and ‘mutilation’ the question that naturally arises is whether the National Assembly in the guise of appropriation is entitled to insert estimates of projects not included in the budget preparation as laid before the National Assembly by the President.
Budget planning and preparation are (or should be) at the heart of good public expenditure management. To be fully effective, public expenditure management systems require four forms of fiscal and financial discipline namely:
1. Control of aggregate expenditure to ensure affordability; that is consistency with the macroeconomic constraints;
2. Effective means for achieving a resource allocation that reflects expenditure policy priorities;
3. Efficient delivery of public services (productive efficiency); and
4. Minimization of the financial costs of budgetary management (i.e. efficient budget execution and cash and debt management practices).
It is correct to say that budget preparation is the principal mechanisms for achieving items 1 and 2 while item 3 is an element of the budget preparation process of industrial countries and item 4 reflects budget execution and cash management.
Similarly, a renowned columnist, Sam Omatseye in his recent article on The Nation Newspaper titled: End of Reason, Everything about our lives today is a cliché. That people stole our money is a cliché. It’s nothing new that a Speaker padded his budget, or a fellow legislator blew the whistle. It’s nothing new that we flushed with dollars once and we did not prepare for lean times. He further noted that it’s nothing new that it is a time of financial fraud. One governor carted away a billion, a minister two billion, an ex-party leader rotten billion hides beneath blossoms on his farm, or the head of state sets up a machine to track down the thieves.
Meanwhile, in the face of all these disturbing figures that were illegally inserted into the budget, the Chairman House of Representative Committee on Legislative Compliance, Abiodun Olasupo has insisted that ‘budget padding’ remains a constitutional responsibility of the legislative arm of government and as such the House of Representatives did not err in the current ‘budget padding’ controversy.
He was quoted by Nigerian Eye, an online platform, to have claimed that Sections 80 and 81 of the Nigerian constitution guarantees the lawmakers the Powers to alter the Budget Proposals, adding that the budgets presented by the executive arm of government do not often reflect true federal character hence the need for ‘padding’. What an argument!
Worthy of mention is the bravery of the 206 members of the House who recently issued a statement signed by three (3) of the lawmakers, Bashir Baballe, member representing Ungogo/Minjibir Federal Constituency of Kano State; Agunsoye Oluwarotimi Ojo, member representing Kosofe Federal Constituency of Lagos State; and Abubakar Chika Adamu, member representing Shiroro/Munya/Rafi Federal Constituency of Niger State, on behalf of the purported 206 members of the group, they claim that Mr. Dogara padded the budget with over N3 billion.
The Reps noted that the general public should note that Speaker Yakubu Dogara made criminal insertions (otherwise known as “budget padding”) to the tune of over N3billion to his constituency alone. The ACLN commends the Transparency group for exposing Mr. Dogara’s attempt to distance himself from the scandal that had engulfed the House for more than two weeks. His action was truly “shocking, disappointing” and signified a “negation of federal character principles and breach of trust.”
With all the disclosure which points at Dogara, it is only appropriate for him as well as all other guilty lawmakers to resign honorably to allow more honest and trustworthy step in. It is therefore pertinent for the people of Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa Federal constituency of Bauchi State to stand up against all forms of abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds. People of Bogoro/Dass/Tafawa-Balewa Federal constituency as well as all patriotic Nigerians must request and ensure that Dogara steps down as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
This brings to the fore, the efforts of the ACLN to educate the Nigerian electorates. We are advocating for Integrity in Governance and will continue to do so by enlightening Nigerians, ensuring that before people vote they make sure they are voting the right candidate with good records. This is key to rooting out bad leaders in our society. Let it also be known to the Executive arm of the Nigerian government that the world is watching and we are using this medium to advise them to allow Justice to prevail and that whoever is found guilty should not only be allowed to resign but also face the wrath of the law to deter future occurrence.
ACLN is requesting for an overhauling of the Nigerian laws and that Corruption, mismanagement, embezzlement of public funds, nepotism etc. should be considered grave offences in the new review and should carry great consequences if Nigeria will move forward. At ACLN, We believe if the people can be re-orientated to come together with one voice, we can put the system to work again. We believe in the power of the people, we believe the people can make for themselves a leader they have longed to see. We believe in the power of the people; WE THE PEOPLE!